Saturday, 24 October 2009

2 - Saul Bass

Saul Bass is best known for his title sequences for film such as Stanley Kubrick’s Spatacus, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Martin Scorsese’s Casino. I've been a fan for a long time now but I was amazed to discover just how influential his contribution to graphic design was and still is. The biggest surprise for me was when I realised he had designed the Kleenex logo and the redesigned Quaker Oats logo. These images have been in my life for as long as I can remember.

Other logos and corporate identities include AT&T, UNITED AIRLINES, EXXON, MINOLTA, BELL, my personal favourite and again a pleasant surprise the WARNER BROS. logo plus many more.

Looking at Bass' graphic design work the fist thing I think is 'minimal' and ‘modern’. Often quoted saying ‘symbolize and summarize’, these were the words that he lived by and this is shown in his work; careful choosing of single images that would set the tone of the piece. The Quaker oats logo is an example of Bass completely stripping down the original idea and setting it to only two (or one if you don't count white) colour.

Bass studied under Gyorgy Kepes who introduced Bass Maholy’s Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism from which Bass took much inspiration and can be seen in much of his works. In the image below we have the movie poster Bass designed for the film Vertigo, 1958 and next to that is 'Hand and Geometry' designed by Gyorgy Kepes in 1939. The work was a photogram with a faint image of a hand behind various linear patterns and a red dot.

Saul Bass was an ardent collector. What he thought was important was the intelligence behind the instinct of why one would choose a particular item and what that would give back to it’s collector.

“These tiny remains of ancient human civilizations, in addition to their intrinsic beauty, bring with them a special kind of mystery—a quality of the distant past, the unknown and unreality of it all. Like the best kind of design or film work, they communicate on two levels: the visceral or emotional level and the more complex intellectual level. The goal, and the ultimate achievement, is to make people feel as well as think.”

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